ECO EGYPT campaign is Egypt's first campaign that promotes for the hidden gems in Egypt; protected areas and destinations. Photo: UNDP Egypt/Eco Egypt

The Ministry of Environment launched ECO EGYPT campaign as its first campaign that promotes for the hidden gems in Egypt; protected areas and destinations. This campaign sheds the light on supporting ecotourism and raising the environmental awareness among the citizens towards the importance of Egypt’s protected areas and destinations with all its natural resources; all in cooperation with the Ministries of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) and the State of the Media with the participation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and  Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Egypt’s tourism (MBDT); a project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The ministry's statement stated that the campaign was launched from Ras Mohammed protectorate Visitor Center in South Sinai, in the presence of Dr. Yasmine Fouad, Minister of Environment, Dr. Khaled Al-Anani, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, and Mr. Osama Heikal, Minister of State for Information, in addition to 30 ambassadors, consuls, representatives of foreign embassies in Egypt, Ms. Randa Aboul-Hosn, UNDP Egypt Resident Representative, and Ambassador Lamia Mekhemar – Director of International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in addition to representatives of international news agencies and a number of public figures.

The campaign aims to support ecotourism in Egypt and encourages visiting its unique protected areas and destinations; moreover, getting to know the different cultures of the tribespeople of each destination and exploring their heritage that distinguishes them and makes them a primary focus for protecting the environment and the biological diversity in those areas. To make sure that the goal of ECO EGYPT campaign would be efficiently and effectively achieved, an integrated plan will be implemented that includes all means of communication and awareness to support responsible and sustainable traveling and raise awareness towards ecotourism. Last but not least, the campaign would pave the way to new investments in this promising sector in a way that supports the sustainability of Egypt’s natural heritage.

Dr. Yasmine Fouad stated that ECO EGYPT campaign opens new horizons for sustainable ecotourism in Egypt as one of the results of the Ministry of Environment's strategy to develop the protected areas in Egypt. Progress in this matter has been witnessed during the last period to develop the infrastructure and services provided to 13 protected areas, including the establishment of a visitor center in Ras Muhammad protectorate and Al-Fayoum protectorate, and the integration of the local community along with the protectorates’ activities to develop their economic and social standards by providing sustainable job opportunities for the tribespeople. As a result, a raise in the average income of the residents of the Fayoum and Wadi El- Gemal protectorates has increased by between 126% - 460% in one year.

The Minister of Environment indicated that the file of the protected areas in Egypt receives the attention and support of the political leadership for their importance and thus are developed and managed in accordance with international systems to preserve them, maximize economic, social and cultural development and preserve Egypt's rich biological diversity in a way that supports the environment and the national economy by attracting more investments in the ecotourism sector. This matter includes multiple activities, from camping, to diving, star gazing, birdwatching, and other activities which attract lovers of that type of tourism from different countries of the world to learn about the unique biodiversity and the distinctive culture of EGYPT found in its protected areas and destinations.

Mr. Osama Heikal expressed his happiness with the launch of ECO EGYPT campaign from Ras Muhammad protectorate as it is the first Egyptian protectorate declared, emphasizing that it is an opportunity to clarify the message that tourism does not conflict with efforts to develop and preserve the environment, including nature resources as an attractive source for tourism.

Minister Heikal added that this event is a reflection of the integration of work between ministries, as the Ministry of State for Information seeks to cooperate with ministries and other various entities to create the necessary awareness of various efforts in all fields related to this matter.

The Minister of State for Information emphasized the importance of raising awareness of sustainable development issues, including preserving protected areas because of their environmental, social and economic benefits, noting that the Ministry of State for Information is keen to simplify the language of environmental dialogue in the media in order to develop awareness of environmental issues and sustainable development and create the necessary community participation in this Direction.

For his part, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Dr. Khaled Al-Anani explained that there is a cooperation between the Ministries of Tourism, Antiquities and the Environment in many areas to revitalize tourism, which is one of the pillars of the national economy, including the decision of the Ministry of Environment to reduce the fees imposed on individuals for all daily trips to the protected areas in the governorates of South Sinai and the Red Sea by 50 % Until the end of March 2021, in addition to reducing the fees for daily cruise boats by 50% until the end of March 2021.

He added that work is being done to encourage responsible ecotourism, and sustainable tourism that aims to preserve the environment and integrate local communities, in line with the new global trends of tourism, emphasizing that Egypt enjoys a unique diversity in its tourism products, and has a mixture between these types and different tourism patterns, making Its visit is a unique and exceptional experience experienced by the tourist.

The Minister of Environment also clarified that the campaign comes within the activities of the presidential initiative "Live Green" to raise environmental awareness, and provide a true model for sustainable development as it takes into account the environmental, economic, social and health dimensions of ecotourism by promoting it to revive the national economy, especially in light of the repercussions of the Corona pandemic by maximizing the sustainable use of the protected areas, raising awareness of their importance and the importance of participating in their protection, integrating the local community in this by training it and developing its methods in promoting its cultural products and its distinguished handicrafts while preserving the cultural, heritage and environmental identity of protected areas, in cooperation with youth, the private sector and civil society.

Minister Yasmine Fouad added that the campaign will continue for a period of 3 years, targeting the promotion of eco-tourism in Egypt through the establishment of a website and a number of social media platforms, in addition to preparing publications to review Egypt's wealth in terms of protected areas, including beautiful landscapes, animals, birds and unique plant cover, and the campaign includes promotion For 13 protected areas.

From her side, Ms. Randa Aboul-Hosn, UNDP Egypt Resident Representative congratulated Egypt for the remarkable campaign and said at the event that: “Environment is claiming back the tourists to an original and authentic form of tourism, that allows not only nature to replenish itself but the communities that live in this nature to share with the rest of the world their heritage and culture. What a better place than Egypt to come closer to nature...a nature that is very rich”.

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